The kingdom of …

The kingdom of God is inside you, and all around you.
Not in a mansion of wood and stone.
Split a piece of wood and God is there.
Lift a stone and you will find God.

While listening to the glam-rock/metal band Black Veil Brides, I came across Exordium, the words are stated above.

After careful research on these words, I came to know that they were first said in the 1999 horror film Stigmata. And they were taken from various parts of the Gospel of Thomas.

Uttering these words in Pakistan will just be an invite of religious backlash.

I, however, stick to this concept, no matter what the ramifications.

I do believe the Ka’aaba is an important structure. It is a religious symbol for all Muslims to converge upon. And it is the centre of our world. But terming it as as the ‘House of God’ is foolishness.

Everything is the house of Allah. He resides in everything, from a water molecule, to the spirit of a human being. The universe is the house of God.

One cannot understandably worship the universe. A symbolic house of God is necessary, but we must always remeber, God’s throne is in our hearts.

His touch is evident in every flower, every leaf.

His wrath is shown when the world burns. When men kill men. When women are abused. When children die from chemical weapons.

His forgiveness is seen when new life is born, innocent, untouched, pure.

With every child that emerges from his mother’s womb, He gives human-kind another chance.

Why do we not take it?

Imagine Dragons And Green Days

My love for music has taken me around many genres.

More specifically, my love of Alternative Rock music, has taken me around many sub-genres.

It all started when I was eleven or twelve. My brother, who was twenty-five at the time, was also a rock aficionado during that stage of his life. We were going somewhere, the two of us. Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life was playing on our car’s stereo.

I fell in love.

Amy Lee’s haunting voice. The gloomy, yet meaningful lyrics. The guitars. The bass. The drums. Evanescence has been grouped into many genres. Rock, metal, goth rock. But whatever it was, it was my obsession.

Hence started my drawings and sketches of Amy Lee. I was only twelve, and in 2006, adolescents weren’t as tech-savvy as they are now. I didn’t know that song lyrics were available on the internet. I pulled all-nighters. Intently listening to the words and scribbling them on a notebook. And then I would listen again, change a word here, a letter there. English isn’t my first language, yet I knew the song Bring Me To Life by heart in a week’s time. I hummed it everywhere. I got to listen to two other songs by the same band. I didn’t know how to download others. And there was a limited collection of music CDs available in Pakistan at that time.

I have always had a weird love for floor length ball gowns ever since I was a kid. And with Amy’s gowns, I grew even more obsessed. She used to wear deep reds, dark purples and blacks. All my favorite colors. She was my idol. I still remember all her bio-data, her likes, her dislikes.

I was her stalker you could say, and I found others like me in Pakistan.

Grade six and seven, the best of my life. I was in the sixth and I had told my then best friend about my love of Evanescence. She said she was a fan too. I was skeptical. Not many people listened to English music in Pakistan, let alone rock.

She proved my doubts wrong. Very wrong.

It is Valentine’s Day. 14th February 2006. I scoff at such ‘romantic’ holidays. They’re not for me. I had made it clear that if I get any presents I would throw them out the window. I knew I wasn’t going to get any anyway. Which guy would be idiotic enough to buy a Valentine’s gift for a girl who threatened to “hit every boy who comes within an arm’s length of me with my water bottle”.

My father’s training. My bottle had a long strap. Papa said: “Swing it like this, and then hit ’em with it like this if they come within a 3-feet radius”.

I’m getting off-track.

On this particular V-Day, I come back from the morning assembly and something red in my desk catches my eye.

I yell, “What the hell?”.

Everyone in the class pauses. Some 40 students turn to look at me. Urooj is smirking while standing at her own desk next to me. I take out the red heart-shaped box, and instantly think who dared? Just as I am about to yell again, I see something else in my desk. It was a CD. An Evanescence CD. Of their albums The Open Door and Fallen. A yellow note with a message in pink ink is stuck on the corner of the CD.

Even before reading the note, I know that only one person would’ve given me this. I look to my right. My best friends always sit to my right. My right-hand people, in every sense of the word. She smiles. I waved my hand about nonchalantly. The Queen dismissing her disciples. Every one looks away. Some sigh with relief. My wrath is contained for now.

Yes, I’ve always been an angry person. I blame it on genetics.

If you’re wondering about my other present, I opened the red box. A box I still have.

A silver chain falls out with a silver heart-shaped pendant hanging from it. After two seconds, it’s around my neck. It stays hidden underneath the collar of my uniform for days. Until my teacher finds it and asks me to take it off. Jewelry isn’t allowed at school. I put it safely in the inside pocket of my blazer, close to my own heart. It stays there for a few days until one day I’m feeling hot and I take off the blazer to hang it on my arm. I go home and later check the pocket, my locket isn’t there.

The next day I hound the school janitors if they’ve found it. I bully a few juniors who were around the area if they’ve seen it. They didn’t. One of my very first Valentine present is now lost forever.

Had I known that only a year later Urooj will move away and we will have a huge fight, never to talk again, I would never have taken that necklace off.

Only the CD is left. I insert the re-writable CD into my computer and come to realize that all the songs are downloaded from the net (an impressive feat in those days) and pirated in various ways. They are amazing. The CD was burned by Urooj’s elder brother, a fan himself.

I now had an illegal CD of metal songs. I was officially a rock-junkie.

And for the past six years, I have listened to metal, goth-rock, punk-rock, indie-rock and christian rock. During my journey I have realized that my true love lies in Alternative rock. Not that hardcore, not too soft either.

Just like Evanescence, my next obsession was Linkin Park. Now it is the delightful Indie Rock band Imagine Dragons. There were, are, many between them. Muse, Florence and The Machine, Keane, My Chemical Romance, Snow Patrol.

Bands ranging from hardcore glam-rock like Black Veil Brides to the older purely Alt-rock band like the Scanners have been through my scrutiny.

Except, Green Day. I usually only like one or two songs from most bands. But so far, Green Day has failed to impress me, to the horror of my (new) best friend. They’re too happy. The lead’s voice is monotonous and too damn happy. I do not like swooning happy songs; ballads and odes. No, I want blunt, edgy words that pierce through your soul like a Lightning Strike (Alt.Rock fans will be able to figure out the pun).

And this is the story of my love for Dragons and hate for Days. This is also a nostalgic moment for me, as I remember the mistakes I’ve made and the friends I’ve lost.

Wherever you are Urooj, I hope you’re happy, because you certainly made me happy, for life!